San Francisco News

Restaurant captures image of alleged art thief

Wednesday, July 06, 2011
art gallery

There are major developments in the theft of a valuable painting from a San Francisco art gallery. A piece by Pablo Picasso was swiped right off the gallery wall during business hours.

Newly-released surveillance video shows the suspected thief in action, walking down a local street with the Picasso drawing under his arm. The drawing itself is worth $200,000.

The surveillance video most likely shows the suspect involved in yesterday's brazen theft, according to San Francisco police. The person in the video matches the description of the man who got away with the Picasso drawing, right down to the loafers without socks, and the frame under his arm is about the same size as the stolen artwork.

The surveillance video is from a camera located outside of the Lefty O'Doul's restaurant, which is next door to the Weinstein Gallery. Lefty's owner Nick Bovis says it only took ten minutes to find video of the man.

"The time frame was at 11:40 a.m.," Bovis said. "The girl from the gallery is in the video right after him (the suspect), ten seconds later, looking around for him."

The FBI says it's like stealing history and the crime could be a federal one, which is why the agency is now getting involved along with San Francisco police.

The investigation has brought them to Lefty O'Doul's restaurant where authorities are now reviewing a surveillance tape. Police say the video could lead to the suspect's capture and the return of the artwork.

"It does help a lot," said Officer Albie Esparza with the San Francisco Police Department. "Any type of video surveillance that is out there is helpful to try to make an identity on a suspect who is still out there running around with this art piece."

The stolen pencil drawing is Picasso's "Tete de Femme," or "Head of Woman," created in 1965. The artwork is about eight-by-ten inches and is worth at least $200,000.

In a bold and brazen move, the suspect walked into the Weinstein Gallery shortly before noon, took the work off a pillar inside, then walked out.

The suspected headed up to the Handlery Hotel where cabs are usually lined up and then took off.

Investigators have interviewed the cab driver and they have impounded what they call the "getaway vehicle."

"San Francisco cabs usually have cameras inside their cars," said Esparza, "so part of our investigation is going to be reviewing those surveillance videos to see if it captured additional footage of the suspect."

The question remains: What can anyone do with such a valuable and recognizable piece of art? Not sell it.

San Francisco police say their investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on the suspect or the crime is asked to contact the San Francisco Police Department.

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crime, art, union square, san francisco news, don sanchez
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